At the back of the Sumner Cemetery property, trees in their early stages of life sprout from the ground.
They were planted there by the city of Sumner in December, and in a few years, they’ll be serving an important cause for the city.
The plot of land will serve as the city’s new nursery as part of its Sumner Tree Care Program, which “manages and replaces older, diseased (street) trees that are uprooting sidewalks and trails” in the city. There are about 4,000 street trees in Sumner, most of them planted between sidewalks and streets.
“The idea is to start planting trees while they’re young,” Sumner arborist Dan Gates said.
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130 trees planted
Currently, there are 130 trees planted on a quarter acre of Sumner property. They range from 10 different species, including California incense cedars, Chinese dogwoods and weeping Alaskan yellow cedars.
Gates worked retail for an arboretum for two years, and knows what type of trees to look for that are right for Sumner. It was important to stay away from trees with thick-diameter leaves that, in the fall, can clog drains and cause problems.
The city is “being smarter about selecting street trees,” he said.
Having its own city nursery also saves the city money in the long run. Trees are typically less expensive when purchased as saplings.
For example, Chinese dogwood trees typically cost the city $120 each to buy when full-grown. As saplings, they cost $10 each. When city staff planted 40 dogwoods at the nursery, the city paid $400 instead of $4,800.
The cost could be part of Sumner’s budget moving forward, said Public Works Director Derek Barry.
“If (the trees) are only ten bucks instead of 150, it can go a long way,” Barry said.
If (the trees) are only ten bucks instead of 150, it can go a long way.
Derek Barry, Sumner public works manager
In March, Sumner was awarded a $250,000 Complete Streets Award by the Transportation Improvement Board. About $45,000 of that was allocated to launching the Tree Care Program, which included establishing a nursery and purchasing a stump grinder, a tree spade and irrigation supplies.
DuPont is the only other neighboring city that has its own nursery, Gates said. Sumner was facing similar issues when it came to street trees — not only were some of them “problem trees” that needed to be replaced because they were damaging sidewalks, but there are also instances of people driving into trees. Street trees have a shorter life span, as they’re often exposed to hot temperatures, compacted soils and all-around harsher environments. Every year, anywhere from five to 20 trees need to be replaced.
The nursery also allows the city to have specific trees on-hand when needed. After storms damage trees, local nurseries might run out of specific trees as cities vie for them.
And when trees are needed for major city projects, they can be planted early.
“If we can plan ahead we can do a pretty good job of it,” Barry said.
As for the nursery’s location, Barry doesn’t expect any interference with space needed for cemetery burials. On 26 acres of cemetery property, there’s plenty of room for expansion of the nursery if needed.
“It could be 50 to 100 years before we decide to come this direction,” Barry said about the cemetery.